This is a thought provoking blog about the impact upon children of their new family unit and the difference for the child dependent upon their age. The section with respect to the thoughts expressed by the children themselves is particularly interesting. This blog is in Psychology Today, not a legal blog.
It is part of our everyday role that a parent seeks advice from a family lawyer about contact between the child and the other parent and how to protect their new family unit both emotionally and financially.
We correctly advise upon the legal process, how to make progress in discussion, what the appropriate expectations should be when discussing these issues either directly between the couple or facilitated discussions in mediation, discussions between lawyers or applying to the court. We can specifically advise on what are considered the reasonable perameters of the contact between parent and child dependent upon the specific facts of the case. We advise upon the likely financial settlement and any other issue that is raised with us that has a legal resolution.
However, how far should the family lawyer, Mediator, Judge delve into the psychology of the parents and the child? Ordinarily none of these professionals are trained therapists or counsellors.
It is my opinion that a family lawyer cannot advise unless she or he understands the context of this advice. Is the client able to hear it? Is the adolescent child so distressed that they cannot entertain contact. Is the new step family struggling to such an extent that it will break down.
Where does the family lawyer draw the line? Are you counselling in your sessions? Is this appropriate, are you qualified to do this? Should you be reading Psychology Today ?
My view is that experienced family lawyers know where to draw the line. For my part I will continue to try and understand the bigger picture and happily read 'Psychology Today' or similar and bring that knowledge into my practice. I do not counsel, but I am willing to listen and it is not possible to separate psychology from the law. Reading this blog just confirms my view that you need to understand the context in which you give your advice.
The step-family task is neither simple nor easy. First socially, and then psychologically, these new relationships can become extremely complex, confusing, and often conflicted. Step-families mix people up.